— Pairings —
During my years working wine retail I was often asked about food and wine pairings and as someone who cooks (and eats) a lot I am happy to offer ideas on what goes good together and what doesn’t. Here are my basic guidelines to follow…
Spicy food and wines with tannins don’t mesh well. Heavily spiced dishes like Drunken Noodles, Chili, and Nashville Hot Fried Chicken will not play nicely with a full-bodied, highly structured Cabernet Sauvignon. At all. It will make everything taste off and bitter and very unpleasant indeed. Riesling is a solid choice, or a Pet Nat, something off-dry. Or grab a Pilsner! If you are absolutely intent on drinking red wine (which many people are) opt for something fruity and lower in tannin like a Gamay or Zinfandel, maybe a Grenache.
Match weight to weight. There is a reason steak and hearty red wines like Cabernet, Tempranillo, and Mourvedre go so well together and thinks like delicate white fish go great with Sancerre or Chablis - they are in the same weight class. If you try to drink a Pinot Grigio with a rib-eye it’s not going to be the worst decision of your life, but the delicate wine will get clobbered by the meaty steak. And vice versa, a full-bodied red will clobber a delicate piece of fish. Not to say you can’t have red wine with seafood, you for sure can, but think about the weight and intensity of the pairings. A spicy, medium-bodied Pinot Noir and piece of Wild Salmon is a delight.
Not sure about the weight of a wine? Look at the ABV%. A wine with low alcohol (between 9%-12.5%) is going to be fairly light to medium on the palate. A wine with higher alcohol (13.5% and up) will have more presence in the mouth.
Champagne goes with everything. Prove me wrong.
At the end of the day though, drink and eat what you like. Don’t fret or overthink a ‘perfect pairing’ because sometimes that’s really just not necessary.
Oysters and Muscadet - minerality abounds here. Salty, briny oysters and a stony, crisp Muscadet make so much sense together.
Roast Chicken and Burgundy - white or red, it doesn’t matter, roast chicken loves the high toned and earthy Pinots and crisp, but medium bodied Chards of the cool climate of Burgundy.
Lobster and Chardonnay - Rich on top of rich. Decadent for sure but no doubt they are a great match.
Mushrooms and Pinot Noir - earthy to earthy, things that taste similar go nicely together.
BBQ and Zinfandel - Spicy, fruity wine and spicy, meaty, tangy BBQ are like delicious lightning bolts on your tongue.
Tricky or Less Obvious Pairings
Artichokes and Asparagus with Sauvignon Blanc or Gruner Veltliner - these spring veggies are notoriously difficult to pair because of their prominent vegetal flavor. Both SB and GV tend to have a vegetal/herbal quality themselves so they make a fine match together.
Lamb and Rhone Reds - gamey lamb does well with either the fruity, garrigue scented reds of the Southern Rhone or the peppery, savory, black fruited Syrahs of the Northern Rhone.
Scallops and Gewurztraminer - scallops are sweet and delicate, Gewurz is bright, delicate and floral. They make a very pretty pairing.